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Bush Expresses Optimism About Iraq


President Bush continues his campaign to reassure Americans about his strategy for success in Iraq with another speech in Washington on Wednesday. The president is trying to turn around growing pessimism about his handling of the war.

President Bush wants to allay concerns among the nearly 80 percent of Americans who believe Iraq is slowly collapsing into civil war.

Mr. Bush says there is hard work ahead, but he believes Iraqis have taken a step back from what he calls the abyss of civil war.

"During Saddam Hussein's brutal rule, he exploited the ethnic and religious diversity of Iraq by setting communities against one and other. And now the terrorists and former regime elements are doing the same," he said. "They are trying to set off a civil war through acts of sectarian violence."

Following a White House cabinet meeting, the president said he is confident that Washington's political, military, and economic strategy is making steady progress toward the goal of a democratic Iraq that can sustain itself, defend itself and prevent itself from being a safe haven for terrorists.

Because, he says, U.S. and Iraqi forces can not be defeated militarily, terrorists are targeting civilians to create what he calls horrific images of car bombings and kidnappings that they know will be seen on American television. "The only thing the Iraqi insurgents as well as the terrorists can possible do is to cause us to lose our nerve and retreat, to withdraw," added Mr. Bush.

He says that is not going to happen. "We are not going to lose our nerve," said President Bush. "The stakes are high. We will complete this mission."

Wednesday's speech is another in a series of events he has had this month to explain his strategy for Iraq.

A public opinion poll by Newsweek magazine says 65 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the war; 29 percent approve.

When the question was first asked following the U.S. invasion three years ago, those numbers were reversed, with just 26 percent of Americans disapproving and 69 percent approving of how Mr. Bush was handling the war.